One wonders whether President Zuma has ever considered replacing his spokesperson with David Saks of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies?

After all Zuma would certainly have lots of reasons to muzzle media coverage of his corrupt administration. One is aware of efforts by government to impose constraints on media, which fortunately have not succeeded due to stiff resistance by SANEF among others.

Is it required of media to temper its so-called hostile stance on corruption and state capture, if Zuma considers it as “unfair, lacking balance and harsh”? Does Zuma have a case to make against the media?

This seems to be the demand that Saks has made in respect of media coverage on Israel. As reported in a local Jewish weekly, members of the SAJBD and SAZF met in Cape Town during February with Iqbal Surve, the owner of Independent News & Media, to complain about “mounting anti-Israel bias of the Independent papers and specifically The Star and Cape Times”.

Besides the singling out of two titles within the IOL stable, which many would view as a despicable form of witch hunt, Saks claims their gripe is the “hostile manner in which Israel was being portrayed, and how, correspondingly, the views of radical anti-Israel lobby groups were being overtly promoted, in both news reports and opinion pieces”.

Sounds familiar?

Such complaints if emanating from the presidency, as have been made routinely, are dismissed by media fraternity who justifiably have to contend with reporting harsh realities of South Africa’s political landscape, whether Zuma likes it or not.

Why then should it be different if the subject is Israel?

Different strokes for different blokes may have been a norm during the era of apartheid, but thank goodness we’ve dumped that along with the evils of racial supremacy.

What’s amazing about the complaint by SAJBD and SAZF is that they’ve bypassed regulatory authorities such as the Press Ombud and gone directly to the owner. What does it mean? Is it an expectation that Surve’s authority over editorial policies is supreme and thus normal to have him unleash a whip?

Or is it a reflection of weakness which is unable to contest media narratives on Israel?

Whatever their motivation, it is out of step and a total disregard of hard-won media freedoms to cry on the shoulders of owners, expecting in this case, Surve to meddle and manipulate content, opinions and reports. No self-respecting owner can or should be bullied into submission by Israeli lobbyists.

It should not be countenanced under any circumstance, whether the complainant is Zuma or Saks.

Media’s ability to promote human rights and dignity cannot be held hostage by supporters of Israeli colonialism and settlement projects. Neither should witch hunts of individual journalists be entertained.

 

Iqbal Jassat

Exec Member: Media Review Network

Johannesburg

Twitter: @ijassat

 

 

Iqbal Jassat

Iqbal Jassat is an acclaimed writer, analyst and commentator and one of the founder members of MRN. His analysis is featured regularly in mainstream and alternate media outlets around the world.